The Kitchen Front

Jennifer Ryan. Ballantine, $28 (416p) ISBN 978-0-593-15880-7
Ryan’s wonderful latest takes her back to the British WWII homefront she chronicled in The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir. This time through, the spotlight is on women making due under the restrictions of food rationing. Ryan structures the novel around a cooking competition in 1942, with the prize being a cohosting position on a food-themed radio program. Four contestants from a small town 15 miles south of London become unexpected friends as they compete for the prize: frazzled war widow Audrey Landon, her social-climber sister, Gwendoline; orphaned kitchen maid Nell Brown; and secretly pregnant chef Zelda Dupont. While the men of the novel tend to be one-dimensional villains or saints, the main characters grow in surprising but believable ways as they find ways to help each other after competing. A master of plotting and working in different registers, Ryan weaves in a romance for Nell and a subplot involving Gwendoline’s abusive husband while keeping the cooking competition front and center, complete with tempting recipes. Readers with an appetite for homefront WWII novels will find this deeply satisfying. Agent: Alexandra Machinist, ICM Partners. (Feb.)
Reviewed on : 11/19/2020
Release date: 02/23/2021
Genre: Fiction
Book - 978-0-593-15882-1
Paperback - 410 pages - 978-0-593-39574-5
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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